VANDALIA — Sidney won’t have much excuse for not being ready when tournament play starts in a little less than a month. Four of the Yellow Jackets’ last eight contests in regular season are road games against some of the Miami Valley League’s toughest teams.
Halfway through the tough stretch, Sidney can still say it’s the MVL’s toughest team.
The Yellow Jackets scored the last nine points of an MVL crossover game against rival Vandalia-Butler on Tuesday to earn a 51-42 victory at the Student Activity Center.
The victory completes a season sweep for Sidney (15-1, 12-1 MVL Valley) against the Aviators and is its sixth straight win over Butler at the SAC. The squad, which beat Butler 68-55 on Dec. 14 in Sidney, had won in the last seconds of tight games the last three years in Vandalia.
It looked like it may go down to the wire on Tuesday, but Sidney shut down Butler (9-8, 7-6 MVL Miami) in the final minutes.
The Aviators, who often have three players on the court over 6-foot-3, didn’t score in the last 4:30 and got one offensive rebound in that time against the undersized Yellow Jackets.
“We hung in there and the kids fought through a lot of stuff tonight,” Sidney coach John Willoughby said. “Butler is tough to guard. They have good guards, and every time you have good guards, you’re going to be in the game. Again, I thought we did a good job in the post.”
Butler 6-4 forward Matthew Beverly had scored in double figures in four of the last five games — and scored nine in the game he didn’t reach 10.
He managed two points against Sidney and shot 1 for 5 from the field.
“I thought we did an excellent job on him tonight,” Willoughby said. “Lathan Jones did great, Avante (Martin) helped out and Jaden Swiger did a great job in the post.”
“… Height-wise, we battled, and that’s all we ask of our kids. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against, you still fight your butt off. I thought we did tonight. Lathan was a big part of that. He got a little loose with the ball but otherwise did a great job.”
Sidney, which has won six straight games since losing to Tippecanoe early this month, is in first place out of 10 teams in the MVL’s overall standings. The MVL crowns divisional champions and an overall champion in every sport.
Fellow Valley Division member West Carrollton (11-5, 10-3) beat Miami Division leader Tippecanoe 68-56 on Tuesday and is two games behind the Yellow Jackets. Tipp and Stebbins are tied for third with 9-4 league records.
Sidney will continue MVL play on Friday when it hosts Xenia, which has four players 6-5 or taller. The Yellow Jackets will host St. Marys on Saturday in their final nonconference game of the season.
Sidney beat Xenia 52-48 on the road on Dec. 18.
“They did a nice job on the zone against us that night,” Willoughby said. “I think we’re doing a better job against zone because recently most of the teams have been going to that against us instead of guarding us one-on-one. Hopefully that carries over against a team that has good length on them.”
Sidney senior wing guard Trey Werntz led Sidney with 16 points, 11 of which came in the first half. Werntz, who is the team’s tallest player at 6-3, often has to help the team in the post and did again Tuesday by grabbing several rebounds.
Swiger added 10 points, eight of which came in the first half.
“Trey’s been playing great for us,” Willoughby said. “He maybe got a little tired at the end tonight, but he’s smart defensively and is a great helper. He got us early baskets tonight.
“Jaden had a good matchup tonight and battled. It was his night. Good passes by his teammates got him in positions to score power layups, and that’s what we need him to do.”
Sidney led 33-27 at halftime but Butler cut into the lead in the third quarter.
Nick Smith made a put-back with 1:32 left in the third to pull the Aviators within 38-35. The teams traded buckets to a 40-37 score heading into the fourth, and Butler started the final quarter with a 5-2 run that Tyler Montague capped with a basket with 4:30 left.
Sidney controlled the rest of the game, though, by closing Butler out of the post and preventing many second-chance opportunities.
Devin Taborn made a put-back off a missed jumper from Darren Taborn with 3:04 left to give Sidney a 44-42 lead. Jones made a basket with 1:46 left, then Dominic Durr made a basket with 43 seconds left to increase the lead to six points. Durr and Werntz combined to make three free throws in the final 30 seconds.
“It seemed both teams were sluggish in the second half,” Willoughby said. “Both teams were battling hard and trying to execute. It seems like we like to play that way.
“But I think what we’re improving on is late-game situations and hitting our free throws and getting the ball in the hands of who we need to late in the games.”
The Yellow Jackets led for most of the first quarter but Butler took the lead before the buzzer.
Sidney led 9-5 early but Ryan Wilson split a pair of free throws with 1:27 left to cap off an 8-4 run by the Aviators that tied it 13-13. Swiger made a putback with 59 seconds left to put Sidney ahead but Montague made a basket and a foul shot with 7.9 seconds left to give Butler a 16-15 lead.
Sidney took the lead by starting the second with a 12-3 run, which Swiger capped off on a putback with 3:40 left. The Aviators closed the gap to 31-27 late but Devin Taborn made a putback just before the buzzer to give Sidney a six-point halftime lead.
“Those (putbacks) kept us in it the first half,” Willoughby said. “We got a lot of offensive rebounds. I tried to tell them at halftime that we needed to try to make the first one. We probably missed five or six bunny shots again, but the nice thing is we got the offensive rebound and put it back and didn’t miss the points.”
Cooper Justice led Butler with 15 points and seven rebounds while Montague scored 14 points.